Can I Keep My Inheritance In A Divorce?

Arizona is known as a “community property” state, which means marital property is split “equitably,” which generally means equally, between two spouses in the event of a divorce. But the property that each spouse either owned before the marriage or acquired after a Petition for Dissolution is served can likely avoid being added to the community assets. Another exemption from community property is for inheritance.  If a family member leaves you money or other goods, you should be able to keep your inheritance in a divorce case.

Separate Property vs Community Property

With few exceptions, property acquired during a marriage is considered community property, which means it is shared between the two spouses. Examples of community property include, but are not limited to:

Your home(s)
Paycheck earnings
Furnishings and other articles found in your home(s)
Bank accounts
Stocks or bonds

Separate property is owned by a spouse before the marriage or is acquired by a spouse after the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is served upon the responding party.

Sometimes a spouse can receive property during the marriage that can still be considered separate property, such as a gift or an inheritance. For inherited property to be considered separate, the person giving it must state that it is specifically for one spouse, not for both.

Commingling Property

Combining your separate property with your community assets, for example, by depositing a separate inheritance check into a joint bank account, is known as commingling. When you commingle property, there’s a chance your inheritance will become part of your community possessions. If this happens, your spouse would be eligible to receive an equal share of it if you were to divorce.

Commingling a separate asset like an inheritance makes it difficult to prove it was ever owned solely by one spouse or that the inheriting spouse did not intend to give a gift of the inheritance to the community. For example, if you and your spouse are purchasing a home, and you decide to combine money from your inheritance with funds from your joint bank account in order to make a down payment, that inheritance money has now been commingled. If you divorce later, you may not be able to prove that part of the down payment was your separate property, or the court might decide that you no longer may consider it separate property because you used it to buy your marital home.

Contact a Divorce Attorney with Your Questions

Figuring out whether your inheritance can stay separate from community property can get tricky. Luckily, the divorce attorneys at Udall Shumway, PLC will be able to help by reviewing your assets and explaining what will be divided with your spouse and what you can keep for yourself. Call us today with questions about your divorce.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Inheritance In A Divorce, or other family law issues, please feel free to contact Lindsay A.M. Olivarez at 480.461.5300, log on to, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.